SMART–TD is proud to represent the men and women driving the buses in America. The vast majority of our bus operators are assigned to fixed routes and drive 40–50-foot buses which require a Commercial Driver’s License, (CDL). These norms are and always have been the standards of mass transit.

Another consistent theme of mass transit has been that it transported people “in mass.” That seems like a detail that should be baked into the cake. Lately, bussing companies bussing departments in some metropolitan areas, and even the federal government have begun to lose their focus on this truth.

There is a new focus emerging known as “Micro-Transit.” This entails folks using an app or calling in and requesting personal transportation from their door to the location of their choosing. Maybe I’m missing something, but that is called calling a cab or an Uber.

What is not clear, is why our tax dollars are going towards subsidizing someone’s taxi ride. During the pandemic, there was a natural incentive to get creative finding ways to reduce the amount of people in confined spaces like public buses. But the offering of these micro transit options at the expense of the public feels like we are all being taken for a ride.

This is not just a waste of all of our money in the form of government spending, but it is a direct threat to the livelihoods of our SMART Bus Operators. These micro transit options that are popping up nationwide are beginning to reduce ridership numbers on the fixed bus routes. Reduced head counts will eventually manifest themselves as issues in the way of reductions in fixed routes, less need for our traditional bus operators, and a decline in the budget for maintenance on the bus fleets.

It is not a matter of our operators transitioning to driving micro transit vehicles and moving on with their lives. There are many factors that make that an unrealistic solution to the problem.

First, and most obvious, is that CDL’s are not a requirement to drive the types of vehicles used in micro transit. All that is needed to operate these vehicles is a Class C driver’s license in most states. A Class C is much easier to obtain, requiring far less training and does carry with it the federal standards and expectations of a CDL. Fittingly, the micro-transit operators do not get paid on the same scale as our SMART–TD fixed route brothers and sisters. Additionally, some micro transit drivers are not union workers therefore they do not enjoy collective bargaining or the pay and healthcare benefits that come with it.

These operators have families who depend on their income, benefits packages, and the schedules they have earned via their seniority. Working on call for less money and no union protection and losing their seniority by working for new employers is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

On top of the injustice that publicly subsidizing micro transit heaps on our SMART membership, there is the short-sited use of our public dollars at issue. The Federal government has a fixed amount of funding set aside for public transportation each year. This is to say that for every dollar that gets sent to the micro-transit sector, mass transit loses access to that dollar. From SMART–TD’s perspective, our union members are not the only people with a dog in this fight.

Mass transit receives public funding for a reason. It brings about public good. Getting people to work, medical appointments, and the grocery store each day is not only a public service, but it is good public policy. Our bus operators are critical to this country’s economy and the quality of life for many of our citizens. The return on investment that occurs when tax dollars are used to promote and enhance public transportation has proven time and again to be among the best investments this country can make in itself. To take a single dollar away from this system to provide door-to-door service to get Karen from the suburbs to a restaurant in the city and back home is not creating anywhere close to the same benefit for our nation.

The arguments against publicly funding micro transit go on and on. Higher cost of maintaining larger fleets of vehicles that are more prone to problems, lower life expectancy of the smaller vehicles compared to the standard busses, and most importantly the loss of safety brought on by running these vehicles through our communities without the valuable and certified expertise of our SMART brothers and sisters operating them, are among the problems being referred to.

To highlight SMART–TD’s objections to this shift to publicly supporting micro transportation, we would summarize by saying that it is nonsense to spend our tax dollars on a more expensive transportation model that serves fewer people, pays lower wages, and reduces the role of our highly skilled bus operators. As SMART members, and as tax-paying Americans, we should all be aware of the slippery slope we are on with this phenomenon and should take every opportunity to speak out against it.

SMART members work to manufacture electric public transportation vehicles at BYD in Los Angeles, an example of the green union jobs SMART is pursuing.
SMART members work on green union jobs across our two nations, including the manufacturing of electric vehicles and transit systems.

Earth Day represents both an annual celebration of our natural environment and a call to action for our planet, our jobs and our families. Awareness continues to grow regarding the damaging effects of climate catastrophe, and governments are reacting accordingly by shifting towards green economic and energy systems. From offshore wind farms, to public school retrofitting, to electric vehicle battery manufacturing, climate change is requiring new innovations across all sectors of North America’s workforce.

SMART members have been on the forefront of green union jobs for decades. Buildings account for about 40% of total energy use in the United States, with more than 35% of the energy generated in the U.S. used to operate buildings’ HVAC systems. SMART’s manufacturing members produce energy efficient air movement equipment, heating and cooling machinery and insulated duct systems. Across our two nations, these production workers build dedicated outside air systems (DOAS) units, rooftop units, water-source heat pumps, underfloor air distribution systems and chilled beams – all designed to increase energy efficiency and keep our buildings running smoothly. These green, leading-edge technologies are not only designed and manufactured by SMART members; our union sheet metal workers install the products as well.

Members of the SMART Transportation Division are also doing their part to reduce harmful pollution, particularly in the transit sector. Whether moving passengers from point A to point B on electric buses in California or bringing citizens to work on commuter rail systems in Chicago, New Jersey and beyond, TD workers are helping accomplish the dual achievement of reducing automobile emissions and efficiently and safely transporting Americans to their destinations. And at BYD in Los Angeles, the sheet metal and transportation sectors combine, as SMART Local 105 members help manufacture electric busses for local communities.  

“Whether schools, hospitals, offices or apartment buildings, SMART workers are helping reduce energy output and keeping our nations working in cleaner, healthier ways,” said SMART General President Joseph Sellers, Jr. “These green union jobs are vital for our countries and our membership.”

SMART Local 0023 bus drivers pose for a picture in front of a bus.
SMART Local 0023 members working for Santa Cruz Metro.

In Canada, meanwhile, the government’s commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 has placed a new emphasis on SMART’s skilled workforce.

“The transition to net-zero is a once-in-a-lifetime economic shift, not seen since the industrial revolution, and it is absolutely vital that this work is performed by union members,” noted SMART Director of Canadian Affairs Chris Paswisty. “Whether retrofitting buildings across Canada to increase energy efficiency, performing indoor air quality work or installing green roofs, the incentives included in the 2023 Federal Budget will put our members’ labour in high demand, creating green union jobs.”

The electric vehicle industry has proven to be fertile ground for SMART, with hundreds of members currently working to build EV battery factories in states like Kentucky and Ohio. But the burgeoning sector also presents a warning – unlike the “Big Three” automakers of old, many electric vehicle manufacturers are extremely nonunion. That’s why SMART members and locals must do more than merely take on the green energy work of today, Sellers added. Labor needs to organize and engage lawmakers to ensure the economy of tomorrow works for future generations.

“There was once a time when green energy goals were at odds with the labor movement. But SMART sheet metal and transportation workers know the importance of ensuring the jobs of the future are good, family-sustaining, green union jobs,” he explained. “Across our two nations, SMART members and local unions must push our communities to adopt green energy policies with strong labor standards attached – from decarbonizing schools in Rhode Island to installing green roofing technology in Canada. We will continue bringing workers into our union to meet these new workforce needs, and work with our elected officials to make this transition to green energy with union labor.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Americans took more than 2.5 billion passenger trips on public transportation in the second quarter of 2019, according to the quarterly Transit Ridership Report released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), representing 11 million trips more than during the same period last year.
These second-quarter results show an increase of nearly 0.5% across all modes compared to the second quarter of 2018, APTAA said in a news release summarizing the report. This includes a rise of 1.44% for heavy rail, 3.54% for commuter rail systems, 0.5% in bus systems in population areas exceeding 2 million people, and 1.51% in systems in communities of less than 100,000 residents, APTA said.
Among commuter rail carriers that saw notable increases, the New York MTA’s Long Island Rail Road saw an increase of 10.6%. SMART TD represents employees of the carrier.
The full second-quarter APTA Transit Ridership Report is available here as a PDF.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said at CES, an annual technology show in Las Vegas, that she plans to take steps toward creating policy guiding the development of self-driving transportation for trucks, buses, transit systems and trains. One of the steps that Chao plans to take toward creating this new policy is to deregulate these industries.
“I also want to take this opportunity to announce that the Department (DOT) will be seeking public input from across the transportation industry to identify existing barriers to innovation. This includes not only barriers that impact vehicles, but also impediments to innovations that can impact our highways, railroads, trains and motor carriers,” Chao said.
In response to Chao’s announcement, SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch wrote in an email, “This rush to autonomous vehicles of all kinds should worry all transportation workers.
“We have been working with Congress to limit legislation on self-driving vehicles to automobiles and to not include buses and trucks. So far our efforts on that front have been successful,” Risch said. “We will continue to work on this issue, but the times they are a-changing.”
As part of Chao’s efforts to deregulate the transportation industry, notices for public comment have appeared in the Federal Register on behalf of DOT’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

  • Click here to read the Request for Information on Integration of ADS into the Highway Transportation System as published by the Federal Register – to be published 01/18


  • Click here to read the Request for Comments on Automated Transit Buses Research Program as published in the Federal Register
  • Click here to read the Request for Comment on Removing Barriers to Transit Bus Automation


  • Click here to read the Request for Comment on Removing Regulatory Barriers for Automated Vehicles from the Federal Register

FTAlogo Progressive Railroading reported that the Federal Transit Administration has chosen nine cities to receive technical assistance to promote economic development around local transit service. This assistance will include in-depth, multi-day visits and workshops. Read the entire story here.

cameraFollowing last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris that left 129 dead and hundreds of others wounded, U.S. transit agencies have stepped up security measures.

Among agencies that announced tighter security yesterday is the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which has upped the number of patrols, K9 sweeps and random bag checks and screenings for explosives across its system.

Read more from Progressive Railroading.

csx locomotive TAMPA, Fla. — Is the solution to the Tampa Bay area’s mass transit woes already crisscrossing Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties?

That’s a question local planners will begin considering in the weeks and likely years to come as Jacksonville-based CSX Corp. considers selling off two rail lines that could conceivably be operated as commuter routes.

CSX floated the sale of 96 miles of track at a recent meeting of the Tampa Bay Transportation Management Area Leadership Group, which includes three elected officials each from the three counties’ Metropolitan Planning Organizations and sets regional transportation priorities.

Read more from The Tampa Tribune

bus; CATS; CATS busWith public transportation usage growing around the nation, many agencies are looking at ways to attract millennials, who are looking for more options and driving less and less, according to respondents of METRO’s Top 100 Bus Fleets survey.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) New York City Transit/MTA Bus Co. tops this year’s list with 5,759 total vehicles. Showing some movement this year, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (2,378), New Jersey Transit (2,233), Seattle’s King County Metro Transit (1,882) and the Toronto Transit Commission (1,869) round out this year’s top five, which collectively totals 14,121 vehicles, or 21 percent of this year’s overall 66,056 total vehicles — down slightly compared to 2014, although last year’s list ranked the Top 110 bus fleets.

Click here to read the full results of the survey.

Read more from Metro Magazine.

BOSTON – Led by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) Vice President Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, mayors pledged March 23 to work together to urge Congress to move past partisanship, including through local action and lobbying Washington, at a press conference during a meeting of The U.S. Conference of Mayors Cities of Opportunity Task Force.

Specifically, the mayors are calling for increased resources to the program, with more locally-directed funding to address the growing needs in cities where populations are steadily rising.

More than twenty mayors from cities large and small convened in Boston for the second meeting of the conference task force, hosted by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who serves as Vice Chair alongside New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio who serves as chair to discuss municipal best practices in the areas of transportation and housing, and ways that federal policy can help close the wage gap and lift individuals and families out of poverty by providing reliable transportation options, access to affordable housing and expanded employment opportunities.

The mayors also heard from U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez who discussed reauthorization of the surface transportation bill, as well as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren on income inequality.

“Inequality is a national crisis. It’s holding down wages, it’s holding back our economy, it’s undermining the American Dream,” said Mayor Walsh. “Here in Boston we are innovating, and growing opportunity to lift individuals and families out of poverty. But we need our partners in the Commonwealth, and in the federal government to act and make the critical funding and policy decisions that invest in and strengthen municipalities, the building blocks of this nation.”

“Mayors are on the frontlines of combating inequality – and we know firsthand that transportation is central to that fight as the backbone of economic growth,” said Mayor de Blasio. “Transit serves as a lifeline for so many, connecting those who need it most to jobs, school, and real mobility, while transportation infrastructure creates the good-paying jobs so many need. The status quo is simply unacceptable. It’s time for Congress to truly invest in the future of our cities and our nation by passing a bill that increases federal transportation funding. And we’ll be making that clear with direct action in our cities and in Washington.”

“Mayors know that transportation systems and services can be an effective tool to address inequality and understand how locally-directed transportation solutions can create more economic opportunity and better serve our nation’s working poor,” said Conference Vice President Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “As we look to Congress, we renew our call for stronger federal resource commitments, with more emphasis on locally-directed funding, to improve our transit and street systems to better serve our growing metropolitan areas and confront income inequality. We cannot let the federal government off the hook in supporting us in meeting these critical challenges.”

Mayor Murray said, “Over the last two days, we’ve heard from Mayors across the country about how our cities are laboratories for innovation, making a difference in people’s lives. In Seattle, we’ve led the way on raising the minimum wage, expanding local transit and access to pre-k. While cities are acting now, we can’t do it alone. It’s time for a national urban agenda, one that will repair our country’s aging transportation infrastructure, expand access to affordable housing and address income inequality. We must have a re-energized federal government that is acting as an equal partner to support the great work happening at the local level.”

Established at the Conference’s Annual Meeting last June by Conference President Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, this Task Force aims to bring mayors from across the country together to leverage the power of local governments to advance a national common equity agenda with policies and best-practices that will help expand opportunity for all. The inaugural meeting of the group was held in New York City in August 2014 to examine issues around improving early childhood education, expanding broadband access and addressing income inequality.

During that first meeting, The Conference released a report that documents the gradual, but dramatic shift over the past 40 years of income distribution in the U.S. in favor of upper-income households as recent reports have also shown. Overall, the USCM report projected a further drift toward inequality in the coming years, making income inequality a structural feature of the 21st century economy unless specific policy measures are taken to address the growing wage gap.

Commenting on the ongoing work of the Conference’s Task Force, USCM CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran said, “The nation’s mayors cannot stand idly by when Washington does not act. We have an obligation to do what we can from where we sit to address issues of inequality and grow economic opportunities for the people living in cities and their metropolitan areas all across the country.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Jan. 27 introduced legislation to rebuild America’s crumbling network of roads, bridges, transit systems and other infrastructure projects. The five-year plan would invest $1 trillion in the effort and create or maintain at least 13 million decent-paying jobs, according to Sanders, the Senate Budget Committee ranking member.

The legislation is cosponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the appropriations committee ranking member, and is supported by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the AFL-CIO and many others.

“For too many years, we’ve underfunded our nation’s physical infrastructure. We have to change that and that’s what the Rebuild America Act is all about. We must modernize our infrastructure and create millions of new jobs that will put people back to work and help the economy,” Sanders said.

“My legislation puts 13 million people to work repairing the backlog of infrastructure projects all across this country. These projects require equipment, supplies and services, and the hard-earned salaries from these jobs will be spent in countless restaurants, shops and other local businesses. It’s no surprise that groups across the political spectrum – from organized labor to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – agree that investing in infrastructure will pay dividends for future generations.”

Sanders’ bill makes targeted investments in roads, bridges, transit, passenger and freight rail, water infrastructure, marine ports and inland waterways, national parks, municipal broadband and the electric grid. A short summary of the bill can be found here and the text of the bill itself is here.

“By making smart federal investments in our nation’s infrastructure, we can create jobs and opportunities today, while strengthening our economy for tomorrow. I’m proud to cosponsor the Rebuild America Act,” Mikulski said.

Tom Trotter, legislative representative for the AFL-CIO, said Sanders proposal will “raise the profile about the serious needs of our nation’s infrastructure. This proposal provides a stark blueprint of what needs to be accomplished and provides an opportunity to create millions of new jobs.”

Casey Dinges, senior managing director at the society of engineers, said: “Senator Sanders’ initiative to invest $1 trillion over five years through his Rebuild America Act will have a far-reaching impact on restoring and modernizing our nation’s aging infrastructure.”

And former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a leader of the Building America’s Future initiative, said: “America’s infrastructure is falling apart. It is time to get serious about modernizing our infrastructure as the consequences of further inaction are unconscionable.”